A few things resonated with me from today’s buddhist lectures: the lion buddha, a life of forced austerity, and forcing the mind through sheer will.
I was thinking about the buddha’s journey. I see my own growth as a kind of perversion of his journey. There was a period when I purposely starved myself. I ate meager portions, smoked heavily, drank cofffee to stave off hunger. One day I caught myself in the mirror, and I could see the outlines of my skull. My eyes sat deeper into their cavities and my cheeks draped over my bones. I was emaciated, dropping 20 pounds, weighing my lowest 140lbs. I slept 4 to 5 hours a day. I was always on edge, gittery, but extremely productive. It was constant survival mode, and I remember I simply didn’t operate with anxiety or depression anymore. Until my body simply broke. I began to get sick a lot, and I remember lying in bed with a terrible fever. I kept repeating to myself that no one was going to save me anymore, and that I have to prepare my body. That’s when I began to eat enough to function. But I wasn’t ready to let myself off the hook yet.
One night, disgusted with myself and what I had done, I burned my hand. After I poured alcohol over the wounds (which hurt more than the burns!). The next few months, when the blood and skin tried to close, I would tear them off to form scars. My mom had a similar ritual performed on her arm to signify her devotion to buddhism. Of course monks did the ritual and it was regarded as ceremonious. Mine, well I was devoted to changing myself and acknowledging my mistakes. Of course it was a perversion of a sacred ritual! And only recently did I realize it freaked everyone out haha! My boss later told me he was worried, and my coworker remarked it looked like prison torture.
At this point, I was done weakening myself. I wanted to make myself as strong as possible to withstand all kinds of pain, to strengthen my mind. I started boxing, pushing my body past its limits. I went from the beginner of the class to out performing everyone else. I did more reps than everyone else. After 2hr classes, I stayed another 30 minutes to work out. I sparred 3 times a week. And the whole time, I had very self-destructive mantras running through my head. I repeated to myself “You’re weak. You hurt her because you were weak.” Or “No one gives a fuck about your pain!” Or “I hate myself. I did this. I deserve pain.” It became a ritual to ignore my pain. I excelled in the gym. I excelled at work, scoring donation after donation. I outworked my coworkers. Carry that over there. No problem. Every opportunity to work, I went after it. I was trying to find my breaking point. And at last I found it. My body was breaking down…
My back muscle was full of knots. My legs were constantly sore. I was always achy. My bones would creak. I grew resentful of my coworkers when I noticed they were taking the easier way out. And then I had a mental break at work when my boss invited me upstairs to ask what was wrong. It just felt… too vulnerable. He was the first person to ask in so long.
The buddha broke his fast when a woman offered him food. The lecture at some point turned to how the buddha needed to be ok accepting other’s compassion. Letting people help you is also a sign of compassion for yourself and for them. It’s telling them they’re doing something right, and it allows them to continue helping others… A month ago, my sister and I reconnected on a deeper level. We ended up talking a lot after eating dinner with my parents.
We talked about so many things… about our fucked up childhood with our mom. about how we both looked up to our dad but he failed us. about how we’re both looking for that feeling of home. about how even though we don’t talk much anymore, we understand each other on a deeper level because we lived through the same thing. i asked if she felt any resentment toward me. And she told me that of our family, she loved me the most.
I have a lion on my forearm. The lion buddha is supposed to represent strength and truth. I didn’t know any of this when I got that tattoo but I think a lot my story has been about finding strength and truth. I left my wonderful relationship when it was absolutely in my favor to stay. I left because I didn’t appreciate her anymore. That night after I told her, I fell asleep with a lot of remorse actually. She told me a while back that it seemed inconsiderate that I fell asleep. But I’ve been haboring so much pain. I wanted her to be with someone who could love her. I wanted her to be happy because I could tell she wasn’t happy anymore. And I wanted to go back to her, even now, because I wish I could be this version of myself for her. I wanted to share my growth with her. I think back with so much remorse still because I wished we could have grown together. But I have to accept that things weren’t ideal. That I am everything I am today because I chose to face the truth.
I can’t force things out of sheer will. I wanted to quit. I wanted to pursue psychology. I wanted to move far, far away. But until my consciousness is entirely integrated, until my body fully agrees, I’ll always be pulled back to my old ways. The buddha tried to force his way to enlightenment through sheer willpower, his fast, but something held him back. And maybe the whole point of my stupid meandering journey, maybe my “enlightenment”, is that I should be OK with myself. That somehow after years of physical, mental, emotional abuse, after being abandoned, ignored, and labeled as undesirable, and worse, after the terrible damage I’ve propagated onto the one person I loved the most, that despite all that, I’m a person worthy of love…
For all my terrible flaws, I’m incredibly brave, compassionate, resilient, strong-willed, creative, and hardworking. It won’t sink in all at once, but I think one day I’ll be OK with myself. I’m not at war with myself anymore. I still fight myself everyday, but I’m not trying to kill any side of me anymore. Maybe one day, I’ll truly feel it with my entire self.